My First Life Lesson
July 5, 2020
I must have been about ten years old when I got my first life lesson.
My mother had given me a list of items to buy from the neighboring Kirana Store( a small family-owned shop selling groceries and other sundries before the era online shopping).
In those days, every family in the neighborhood would maintain an operating account with the owner based on mutual trust. One could buy anything on credit and settle the account end of the month.
I went to the shop, picked up the items as per the list my mother gave me. Sanjay, the shop owner( I remember his name even today), billed all the items and entered the value owed in his Khata Book(Book of accounts). I scanned the handwritten bill Sanjay made and noticed that he had missed billing Rupees 1.50 for a coconut that I had taken.
“Ok. Sanjay seems to have missed billing for the coconut. Not my mistake,” I thought and kept silent.
I went home, deposited the groceries in the kitchen, and went across to my mother.
“Amma, here is the bill. By the way, I saved Rupees 1.50. Can I buy some biscuits with the money saved”?
“What happened? How did you save the money?” asked my mother, intrigued.
“Sanjay made a mistake and forgot billing the coconut. I thought it was no big deal since we were buying so many items. So, we now have the coconut, and the billing value is Rupees 1.50 lower,” I said proudly.
Slaapppp !!! It’s been four decades and the memory of the sting on my chin and the ringing in my ears from the slap my mother gave me is still vivid in my mind.
“How dare you cheat someone? Sanjay operates with us on trust. Imagine he billed something extra and we missed checking and ended up paying for it, how would you feel?”
“Cheated,” I blurted out tears welling out in a torrent from the shame of wrongdoing and the pain of the slap.
“Never cheat. Ask yourself, if someone else did what you feel like doing at any time, how would you feel about it? If the answer is that you would feel bad, know that whatever you feel like doing is wrong and not morally right!!”
My mother downloaded the first valuable lesson on ethical behavior that became a core guiding Value in my life. Whatever be the situation, whatever be the temptation, she taught me a simple framework to help me operate in life with honesty, integrity, fairness.
Today, July 5th, 2020, is the auspicious day of “Guru Purnima.” Guru Purnima is celebrated in India to commemorate the first sermon of Gautama Buddha after he had attained enlightenment. It is also considered the birthday of Veda Vyasa, the spiritual master who penned the epic Mahabharata.
Guru Purnima celebrates all the gurus or teachers in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist communities across the world. This post is a dedication to my first teacher, my mother.